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Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Using RSS For Data Integration

John Udell writes,RSS helps blur the boundaries between human network and process networks. He writes about using RSS for data integration and outlines how he has configured his blogsite to use A9's opensearch capabiliites.Excerpts with edits and comments:

Amazon's OpenSearch API demonstrates the power of RSS for process-to-process communication.
- Step one was to add an alternate interface that would return results as a lightly modified RSS 2.0 feed.It differs from a vanilla feed only by a couple of A9-specific tags. These are neatly encapsulated in an OpenSearch namespace, and they demonstrate a fact about RSS 2.0 that has been too little known and exploited: It’s extensible.
- Step two was to register the service, which can be done by pointing A9 at a document written in an A9-specified XML format.
OpenSearch is interesting in lots of ways, but the focus here is on its use of RSS. A9 doesn’t subscribe to the search-results feed in the way feedreaders would. It doesn’t poll for changes.Instead it sends a request to the site when an A9 user with an active InfoWorld column performs a search. The response packet sent back just happens to be formatted as RSS 2.0, but from A9’s perspective, it could be any XML format.
RSS 2.0 creates network effects that go way beyond the point-to-point relationships between A9 and its search partners. RSS 2.0 search results served double duty. It accomplishes the integration with A9, but it also dramatically expanded InfoWorld’s RSS surface area. Now, for the first time, one can subscribe to any InfoWorld search in a feed reader.
Most people nowadays use RSS for person-to-person communication. You know the pattern: When a publisher posts a blog item, subscribers are alerted. A growing number of folks are also using RSS for process-to-person communication. Subscribing to searches is the best example of this pattern. A9’s use of RSS for process-to-process communication represents a third pattern. We’ll be seeing a lot more of it. Not because RSS enables process integration in special ways - it doesn’t - but rather because RSS helps us blur the boundaries between human network and process networks.

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